Hugh Reilly: New faces spell big trouble at big school

In my experience, Greeks bearing IOUs turning up at the Central European Bank would receive a warmer welcome than primary kids on a visit to the "big school". Having hordes of excitable P7 scamps descend upon the secondary school during the final few weeks of the session causes a sudden increase in Sir's need to self-medicate.

Sitting in his classroom bunker awaiting the arrival of the mini-me mob, advance notice of the happening only exacerbates the dominie's sense of foreboding; a quick glance at the class lists with whom he will interface is a catalyst to open negotiations with God on how to survive the days ahead.

Once only a theory, dodgy science has clinically proved that, indeed, there is a direct correlation between pupil indiscipline and a child's first name. Using a control group of kids with traditional names - John, Robert, Mary and Ann - classroom nutty professors have discovered that youngsters called Chantelle, Kylie, Jade or Jordan (male) exhibit a greater propensity to "challenging" behaviour. (I wish I were joking but, apparently, there is a girl who has been christened Ibroxia). The name-blame-game even spills over to surnames. Certain second names leap off the pages of primary class lists, alerting the chalkie to the awful realisation that the latest sprog of a dysfunctional tribe is about to begin secondary school.

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In times past, primary school staff accompanied the greenhorns, sitting impassively at the back of the class while Sir toiled to build a rapport with the smiling cherubs. Back then, the majority of secondary school teachers were men, and examples of outrageous flirting were not uncommon. Single primary schoolmistresses on the lookout for good husband material had a reason to delight in a rendezvous at the local secondary - you've got male, if you will.

These days, frazzled primary teachers perceive pupil induction visits to be a form of respite provision, almost shoving their youngsters off a moving bus in the secondary school car park and returning speedily to their base school to work on the new curriculum (aye, right!). The task of shepherding the newbies is given to senior students who eerily resemble Jack the Ripper tour guides as they hold up identification cards for the salivating little folk to follow.

Willie Whitelaw's short, sharp, shock treatment of ill-disciplined teenage offenders failed, but I find that by tweaking that regime, a successful outcome is possible. In most cases, secondary schoolteachers have only three days to transform the rag-bag of primary kids into a professional army of learners. New recruits are marched into the classroom and, rather unsociably, invariably choose not to make new friends from other primaries. For the typically disorientated child, it's something of a comfort blanket to sit alongside the specky boy wearing the same primary jumper as you, your new bestest friend who, until a few minutes ago, you considered to be the class sap.Alone and miserable sits a poor lass on a placing request whose supportive parents thought it a wonderful idea to enrol their offspring in a so-called magnet school.

It is good practice for teacher not to show any sign of weakness on these primary visits lest word gets round that one is "saft". Better to err on displaying the kind of charm associated with that of a prison guard on Van Diemen's Land. Occasionally, however, one's stern act is destroyed by laughing out loud when a kid with undiagnosed Tourette's shouts out: "You taught ma da!" Staring at the lad, the resemblance to pater is uncanny: the hypertelorism, the cleft (aka bum) chin and, of course, the pointed ears of bat with a face to match.

Pupils eyeball one another for a variety of reasons. Some are in pursuit of romance, playfully hitting the object of their desire with a half-chewed rubber to signal a love interest. Bullies, eager to stamp their authority in unfamiliar surroundings, dish out "deidies" - ie, punching the biceps of unsuspecting pupils, giving them dead arms. Hard to believe, but in five or six years, these awkward youngsters will attend the school prom, the girls gorgeous in their wonderful dresses and the boys devilishly handsome in their kilts and suits. No-one, not even primary school kids, stays forever young.